Put Backspin on the Ball

If you’ve ever watched professional golf on television, you’ve probably seen players hit approach shots into greens that land softly and stop or, sometimes, spin backwards. These shots seem to defy the laws of physics; the ball’s momentum is taking it forward, but it quickly stops or changes directions without any outside force.

The ability to put backspin on a golf ball is an incredibly valuable one. It allows a player to safely fly their ball all the way to the green without risking a bad bounce on the ground. Without backspin, a player would be forced to land the ball short and hope that it takes a favorable bounce towards the hole.

Spin also makes it much easier to judge a shot’s distance. Instead of guessing how far a ball might roll after it hits the ground, a player who is able to put backspin on the ball knows that it won’t wander far from the initial landing area.

For many players, backspin seems like an unattainable dream, but believe it or not, spinning the ball is actually much easier than you might expect.

ANGLE OF ATTACK

The first thing a golfer need to understand is how backspin is created. A lot of golfers believe, incorrectly, that they must get under the ball and lift (or swing up) at the ball to get it in the air and spinning backwards. Unfortunately, that’s a nearly impossible task and does the exact opposite; lower backspin rate and trajectory.

Think about it this way, if you try to swing up at a ball that is resting on the ground, then you’re forced to make contact with the ball at the exact point where it meets the ground. Since this is so difficult to do, it often means that the club makes impact with the ground first and then the ball, which slows down the club head before impact and brings foreign objects (dirt, grass, water, etc.) between the ball and the clubface.

Instead, backspin is created when a player makes impact with the ball first and the ground second, with a downward angle of attack. The angle of attack is the path of the club head through impact.

Again, if you watch professional golf on television, you’ll notice that players take a huge chunk of dirt (called a divot) with each iron shot. In this case, they are actually creating the divot after they struck the ball. The result of, correctly, making impact with the ball then ground, is a divot that is slightly smaller than a dollar bill and starts immediately after the ball and continues forward.

GROOVES

If you’re able to create this downward angle of attack, you’re well on your way to putting backspin on your golf ball. The next thing you must attend to is your grooves, or the small indents in your clubface placed there to help generate spin.

The purpose of your grooves is to displace grass, dirt, water, and other loose impediments so that your golf ball and clubface connect with the largest possible surface area. They give those objects a place to go so that they don’t get in between the ball and clubface. The more your clubface and ball make contact without anything getting in the way, the more spin you will be able to create. That’s why it’s so important to hit the ball FIRST and the ground SECOND.

This also means that the grass condition you find your ball in will dramatically impact how much you can spin the golf ball. A ball that is hit out of the rough will have significantly less backspin because there is more grass between the ball and clubface. Shorter grass conditions, like the fairway, will allow you to make unimpeded impact with the golf ball.

So, the cleaner you keep your grooves, the more you will spin the ball. Be sure to clean your grooves after every shot to get the best performance. There are also groove sharpeners on the market which allow you to make old grooves look and perform like new.

CLUBFACE

Next, it’s important to make sure that your clubface is in a square position. That may seem like common sense, but it’s actually much easier said than done. There are three possible face positions at impact; square, closed, and open. A square clubface is the only position where backspin can be created because the ball will spin directly up the clubface.

The other two positions, closed and open, will actually put side spin on the golf ball and a ball that has side spin cannot have backspin. So, if you make impact with the golf ball and have an open or closed clubface, that sidespin will be the dominant motion of your shot when it hits the ground.

Unfortunately, there is no universal way to correctly make sure your clubface is square at impact, but you can self-check. In general, wherever the ball finishes (left, right, or straight) will indicate you face position at impact. So, if you hit a slice that starts on line, but ends up to the right of the target (for a right-handed player), then your clubface was open at impact.

To close your face more at impact, rotate both your hands towards your back shoulder before swinging. If you want to open the face more, do the opposite; rotate toward your front shoulder.

LOFT

Finally, we need to understand loft. This is the angle degree that is created by the clubface and the centerline of the club’s shaft. A club with more loft is going to create more backspin. So, you may not see a ball back-up after it hits the green with a 4-iron, but that is much more likely to happen with a sand wedge.

FINAL THOUGHTS

All of these points apply for short chips and pitches as well, but keep in mind that the faster you swing the more backspin will be created. Don’t expect a short shot to spin a ton because you’ll be forced to swing slower.

Remember, if you want to put backspin on your iron and wedge shots, make sure you hit down on the ball first and then the ground. Also, make sure your grooves are clean, the grass conditions are favorable for backspin, and you have a lofted club.